The central bank of Switzerland releases information on how much money has been deposited by Bangladeshi nationals in various Swiss banks. However, neither the Bangladesh government nor any other institution of the country has taken initiative to find out the identity of those who have stashed their wealth in these banks and how they transferred the money there.
Analysts and economists have said that if the government was interested, they could easily get information of who are the owners of this wealth. Over the past decade, international law has been drawn up to reveal such information. However, the Bangladesh government has displayed no interest in this regard. Eminent citizens of the country have demanded that initiative be taken to identify these persons. They said that under international law, various countries collect information about money laundering. Bangladesh, however, has taken no steps in that direction.
Bangladesh has its own agency for the prevention of money laundering and terrorist funding. On its website, Bangladesh Bank states that the main function of this agency, the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), is to gather information on any sort of suspicious transactions, capital flight and terrorist funding. This unit has legally been given the responsibility to exchange information with foreign partners concerning money laundering and terrorist funding. And yet despite this authority, this agency has no information on who are the Bangladeshi depositing money in the Swiss Banks and how they transferred the money there.
The BFIU head, Abu Hena Mohammad Razi Hasan, when asked about the matter, told Prothom Alo, “It is not that all the money in the Swiss banks have been transferred from Bangladesh. Many Bangladeshis living overseas have legally deposited their money there. Again, in the name of trade, some money is siphoned off from this country. We are trying, like India, to gather information in this regard. I have discussed the matter with the finance ministry. However, everything has come to a standstill because of coronavirus.”
Swiss National Bank (SNB), the central bank of Switzerland, on Thursday released its annual report, ‘Banks in Switzerland 2019.’ The report contains information on the bank deposits of Bangladeshis.
According to the report, deposits of Bangladeshi nationals in Swiss banks in 2019 totalled 603.02 million Swiss francs, equivalent to Tk 53.67 billion (Tk 5,367 crore). In 2018 this was around nearly 620 million Swiss francs, that is around Tk 55.18 billion (Tk 5518 crore). That means the amount in 2019 when down by around Tk 1.51 billion (Tk 151 crore) compared to the preceding year.
Every year news is released about Bangladeshi nationals’ deposits in the Swiss banks, but the Bangladesh government never wants to know whose money this is and how it got there. That is why, other than the Swiss bank accounts, capital flight to offshore destinations and island states is also on the rise.
Just as money is illegally smuggled out of the country to Swiss bank accounts, Bangladeshis living overseas also deposit their money there. So the deposits by Bangladeshi s in Swiss banks include both legal and illegal funds.
Executive director of Policy Research Institute (PEI), Ahsan H Mansur, speaking to Prothom Alo, said, “Citizens from various countries of the world would keep their laundered money in Swiss banks because of the secrecy clause then. But Switzerland no longer has that law. Even so, due to political and economic reasons, our government shows no inclination to collect information on capital flight. The reason is because it is mostly persons who are close to the government that are involved in this money laundering. The relevant agencies too, do not take any initiative in this regard without a go-ahead from the government.”
Ahsan H Mansur went on to say, India has begun looking into the Swiss bank accounts of their nationals and so the deposits of Indians in the Swiss banks have decreased. If Bangladesh took similar initiative, then there would be less capital flight from the country.”
According to SNB, at the end of 2019, the amount of Indian citizens’ money in the Swiss banks had fallen by almost 6 percent compared to the preceding year, totaling 900 million (90 crore) Swiss francs. Actually the volume of Indian money in Swiss banks began to fall since 2007.
Is the entire Tk 55 billion (Tk 5,500 crore) or so in the Swiss banks laundered money? Executive director of the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), Iftekharuzzaman, told Bangladesh, “The lion’s share of this wealth is illegally transferred money. Switzerland is a signatory of the UN anti-corruption convention and so they release information of the deposits of persons from all over the world. Every year news is released about Bangladeshi nationals’ deposits in the Swiss banks, but the Bangladesh government never wants to know whose money this is and how it got there. The agencies and institutions involved in anti-corruption and anti-money laundering activities also take no initiative in this regard. That is why, other than the Swiss bank accounts, capital flight to offshore destinations and island states is also on the rise."